Press freedom demonstrators say: ‘Australian democracy is in grave danger’

June 13, 2019
Protestors rally for the protection of press freedom outside the office of communications minister Paul Fletcher, in Lindfield on June 11.

More than 60 people gathered outside the electoral office of Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher in the northern Sydney suburb of Lindfield on June 11 to demand the federal Coalition government protect press freedom.

The rally was called by an alliance of groups, including Friends of the ABC, the Labor Party and the Greens.

Janine Kitson, from Friends of the ABC, said: "We're tired of the [Scott] Morrison government's bad behaviour in condoning the bullying by the AFP [Australian Federal Police] of the ABC and other journalists.

"It is not criminal to tell the truth in the public interest."

Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi told the crowd: "The raids on the ABC are a blatant attack on democracy. The AFP is an extension of the government, and the government must be responsible for this outrage.

"These are dangerous and scary tactics, aimed at intimidating journalists and whistleblowers. This is the politicisation of law enforcement in Australia.

"It is good that the ALP have opposed the recent AFP raids on journalists. However, the government, supported by the Labor opposition, have vastly expanded national security legislation and restrictions on freedom of the press. We must speak up and fight for legislative protection of journalists and whistleblowers."

Protesters circulated an open letter to Fletcher expressing "grave concerns over the recent unprecedented federal police raids on the ABC headquarters and a journalist's home, [which] reveal an utter contempt for Australia's democratic values."

The letter called on the minister to review "all legislation that exploits the terminology of national security and so doing threatens citizens' rights to information in the public interest. It is of utmost importance that the Australian government reassure the ... public that it will uphold the freedom of the press, and particularly the independence of the ABC. Without this, Australian democracy is in grave danger."

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